January 2019 Strider

Striders on the trails in Loma, Colorado
16 Jan, 2020

In this issue: 

  • ALMOST 18-HUNDRED RUNNERS IN THEFireman’s Turkey Trot!  
  • MMS Turkey Trot!  Santa Cause 5k?   
  • ERIN WALTER & MAX ROBINSON are fastest @ Bang’s Canyon Trail/trial Ultras
  • “The finish line (lying?) doesn’t change you”
  • Next month: would you want more (or less?) of the same!

Thanks to Larry Ingram, Conrad Cole, SCOTT HINES (keith Mottram), Tom Ela and Patrick Hummel for contributions to this edition.


Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day.  9th-annual Firemen’s Turkey Trot 5k, which as of this year was moved from “downtown” to Stocker Stadium!  The course started&finished at Stocker and toured the downtown and back. 

            New course?  New course records! Set by KARA ROPER (18:19) and DAVID CARDENAS (15:37) to set the pace for 1,787 finishers!  We (the so-called editorial staff @ the NewsLetter H.Q.) believe that this has gotta be the most runners ever, in our area for a race.

            Cardenas, last spring’s State H.S. 800-meter champion, must have run a solo time-trial, finishing ¾ of a minute ahead of runner-up Hunter Prather.  Kara Roper, recent RimRock Marathon winner, showed she has speed along with her obvious endurance, also had a ¾-minute recovery before MacKennea Broyles finished.

            Fastest Women:  1. Roper, 18:19   2. Broyles, 18:59   3. Gwendalyn Gibson, 19:54

4. Amanda McGill, 20:45   5. Elaina Arcand, 20:50

            Men:  1. Cardenas, 15:37   2. Prather, 16:23   3. Ryan Gulden, 16:29   4. Tyman Smart, 16:31   5. Max Robinson, 16:35 (yes, he too has speed & endurance (RRM winner)

            MASTER’s winners were Marty Wacker (9th over-all), 17:08 and Sherry Williams (11th woman), 22:01.

Age Groups:  WOMEN: 1-11: Mayzie Jones, 25:12 (close 2nd!) – Lila Garcia, 25:14; 3. Jane Lentz, 25:44   12-17 1. McGill, 20:45  2. Arcand, 20:50  3. Rebecca Hittle, 21:13

18-23 1. Broyles, 18:59  2. Gibson, 19:54  3. Taylor Kincaid, 21:54   24-29 1. Shelby Mixon, 22:27  2. Amy Kane, 22:45  3. Olevia Shafer, 22:52   30-39 1. Roper, 18:19  2. Kari Henning, 21:40  3. Meredith Bremner, 22:33  40-49 1. Williams, 22:01  2. Rachel Cambray, 22:06  3. Alicia Pedroza, 23:19  50-59 1. Sherry Padon, 26:03  2. Dawn Gwin, 27:05  3. Renta Collard, 27:37  60-69 1. Suzie Steel, 23:24  2. Kathleen Marshall, 27:37  3. Sandra Mallory, 31:43  70+ 1. Jean Landis, 38:20

            MEN: 1-11 1. Elijah Wright, 21:18  2. Jacob Gustafson, 24:26  3. Jaxon Engbarth, 25:07 12-17 1. Prather, 16:23  2. Zac Mastrow, 16:36  3. Jordan LeBlow 16:41 

18-23  1. Cardenas, 15:37  2. Smart, 16:31  3. Jared LeBlow, 18:17  24-29 1. Robinson, 16:35  2. Woody Seagren, 19:13  3. John Zamora, 20:49  30-39 1. Gulden, 16:29  2. James Roche, 17:01  40-49 1. Wacker, 17:08  2. Adam Bechtel, 17:57  3. Mitchell Hamilton, 19:29  50-59 1. Levi Broyles, 18:43  2. Sean Phelps, 21:18  3. Joel Kincaid, 21:33  60-69 1. John Ferguson, 21:59  2. Sammy Marutzky, 23:37  3. Gary Lake, 26:20  70+ 1. Michael Fitzgerald, 31:13  2. Dennis Young, 33:30  3. Frank Pfeifer, 37:45


MMS Directors meeting -->  Nov. 19:  the (un)usual suspects were joined by Kristin Martin – at the meeting to present and briefly discuss Corey Hinman’s GVTA notes.  Those notes were in the last (Dec. 2019) issue of the Strider.  Kristin emphasized that certain ultra-events will reduce monetary entry fees if an applicant has accrued “point” by helping with races, and why not accrue points by trail-maintenance work?  As usual, we started the meeting talking about anything but running – Martin reported that 16” of the white stuff was expected on The Mesa the coming weekend.  And ‘regular’ (downhill) skiing?  “Regular skiing is no longer for rich people, it’s for the wealthy” in reference to Vail’s $200/day ticket cost.  Perhaps future MMS calendars will have the “wreath on the (Devil’s Canyon) cabin” date.  Discussed a possible “orienteering” race.  Martin is “going ahead” w/the MMS website.  One change is no change:  we debated changing the logo, but not soon.  Martin is working on the “new & improved” website, whereby (ostensibly) members can pay mem. dues online.

The M M S Directors, currently, are:

KARLA NEPHEW – President (& Jaguar-Timing-System).

ANDY WINNEFELD – Vice-President (& frequent medical insight).   

TOM ELA – Membership (among many other things).    CONRAD COLE – Treasurer.   

ROSCO BETUNADA – interim temporary acting Secretary, Newsletter.   

RANDEE BERGEN – consultant re: website and FaceBook.   

LARRY INGRAM -- Calendar, Race Director Consultant.  MARTIN WIESIOLEK -- Web Site &

SHERYL DOUGLAS (former President and still Keeper of the Keys).

PATRICK HUMMEL – Architectural and Design consulting.  COREY HINMAN (GVTA Liason).

K M (mystery occasional semi-secret agent), consultant on any-&-everything


Ben Hoffman (GJHS grad) who was 4th in the Oct. 12 World Championship Hawaii Ironman, was featured in a recent Daily Sentinel.  He ran an Ironman marathon in 2:36:09 ! which is the fastest ever by anyone in an Ironman competition.


For submissions for next newsletter:  Email articles to [email protected]

Doesn’t have to be a ‘submission’!  Let me know of O-missions, etc.

or ‘regular’ mail to MMS, c/o Betunada, 230 Sunset Hills, Grand Jct., CO  81503

Did you know that you can opt-out of the paper version of the newsletter and get an email version?  You will still get one paper newsletter at the beginning of the year that contains our annual calendar.  Just let Tom or Karla know!  (But if you’re an old-fashioned dinosaur (like the editor), continue w/paper ~)

MESA MONUMENT STRIDERS websitehttp://www.mesamonumentstriders.com



Note: all phone numbers “970” unless indicated otherwise    

Jan. 25, Sat., 6:30 a.m.  ARCHES ULTRA (Find out if this/these has/haven’t been “sold out”! – sometimes happens), if you can get in, choose between 50 mi., 50k, 13mi, or 9k.  www.madmooseevents.com

Jan. 26, Sun., 11 a.m. SKYWAY SKUFFLE 10K, Skyway on the Grand Mesa.  gmnc.org


            This is the MMS’ “other” prediction race, with prizes being re-distributed to those running closest to their pre-race predictions.  (Sorry, no “facilities” – but there are the proverbial bushes ‘n such).  ENTRY ‘FEE’ IS/ARE 2 cans or bottles of something to drink!  Which are given back to the winners.  Bottom of Little Park Road at the Gunnison River.  Rolling paved not-too-hilly course.  Jay (or Rosco), 270-0109 or [email protected]

Feb. 8, 11 a.m. WinterRim Romp – Black Canyon Nat’l Park, along south rim, an 8k (5 mi) snowshoe race or a 16k x-c ski race.  And, you can just non-competitively participate.  See

SJMR facebook page ~  sjmr.club

Feb. 15, Saturday, 8 a.m.  DO YOUR HEART GOOD / SWEETHEART RUN 5k or 10k, Fruita Rec. Center (324 N. Coulson) 858-0360 (Meghan Nelson), [email protected]

Feb 15, Red Hot Ultras -- MOAB area –33k starts @ 8:30 a.m. and 55k starts @ 8:00.  See website and be prepared to follow all the directions!   https://www.madmooseevents.com/

March 7, the MONUMENT MARCH, GJ Parks and Rec are sponsoring a race on March 7 that will high-lite the new trail.  It will be a 6k and 12k.  Striders would be timing the Monument March on March 7, 2020 at Las Colonias.

March 14, CANYONLANDS Half-Marathon (& 5-mile)  madmooseevents.com

See enclosed/accompanying calendar for more later February and March events !

            Join us for any of the 3 weekly training sessions: anyone (that is: come one, come all).  NOTE:  you DO NOT "HAVE TO" RUN -- show up and walk, even!   We are switching from the trails to THE STREETS (& track).  Group training runs are held three times each week, Monday-Wednesday-Thursdays.  Time changes on Nov 3.  Please note our switch to running streets until daylight returns (all still 6 PM):

Every Wednesday, speed workout,  6 PM – we will run at/on the Lincoln Park track (Stocker Stadium).  All abilities and speeds encouraged to join, Tom 970-773-3124.        


Group training run every Thursday,  6 PM – we will run from Handlebar, at the corner of Broadway and Monument Road.  As always, this is casual and all shapes and speeds are welcome with various routes to choose from. We'll look out for you.  Tom 970-773-3124 

OR Thursday 6 PM  Daylight Wasting Time Headlamp Run
Tabeguache Trailhead on Monument Rd (Lunch Loops).  Same as Summer mode but with headlamps.  Info: text Kirk at 970 349-1185

Group training trail run every Monday,  6 PM   Monday Nov 4 ongoing, run from Copper Club, 233 E. Aspen St, downtown Fruita. We have a 5 – 6-mile standard loop, but there are various shorter options to choose from. Tom 970-773-3124 

b c z y x v u 8 1 0 4 3 n ? ! q

MORE running websites:

sjmr.club ( SJMR )    San Juan Mountain Runners, 631 S. 2nd Street, Montrose, CO  81401   

West Colorado GIRLS ON THE RUN:  gotrwesterncolorado.org 

Steamboat Springs:  www.runningseries.com – this site should show all you need to know about most (or all!)

the Steamboat-area races.  Get on their e-mailing list!

   rrca.org (road runners clubs of america)  and   colorado runner:  www.coloradorunnermag.com

Support the underwriters / sponsors of the MESA-MONUMENT STRIDERS:


The following:  Summit Canyon Mountaineering, ALPINE AUTO-HAUS, the FOOT SUPPORT GROUP, WEBCREATE.COM, and Dr. Andy Mohler, family practice, have assisted in keeping membership costs lower than they could be. 

And:  they support running in the Grand Valley (& elsewhere).  Support them if you can!

ALPINE AUTO-HAUS, 539 BOGART LANE – (970) 248-8004

Consider this auto-repair/servicing shop – especially for your Audi or BMW or VW or MINI ~

FOOT SUPPORT GROUP  Foot/gait/orthotics/bracing/modification specialists 

“European Craftsmanship – Biomechanical Design”  3212 F Road, Clifton, CO  81520

888-242-3881     or, in the 970 area code:  434-2727  

Summit Canyon Mountaineering   461 Main Street, Grand Junction, CO 81501   (970) 243-2847 

Dr. Andy Mohler, family practitioner – with the Primary Care Partners PC, 3150 N. 12th (G.J., 81506), 245-1220

WEBCREATE.COM – just as it appears:  need help with your website? [email protected]

Last issue we summarized the RMAConference Cross-Country championships held rite hear in River City, and postulated that the RMAC could do well at the National Championships.  Well, they did – on November 23 in Sacramento CA, Colorado School of Mines WON the men’s team title, and Adams State College not only won the women’s trophy, they did so with a sweep of the one-two-three individuals!  There were 7 RMAC runners in the women’s fastest 11; and 6 RMAC runners of the top 10 in the men’s race.

            Adams State had to have set the all-time record for low score (23) for the national championships.  Their 5th runner was 11th place.  The 6k race was won by Stephanie Cotter (a sophomore) in 19:15, followed by the Flanagan twins (Eilish and Roisin) with 19:39 times.  CSM was the 3rd-place team, and Western State was 4th team.  Adams State had an even better day, as their men’s team was 2nd.  The 10k race was won by Ezra Mutai (American Int’l) in 29:31.  Kale Adams (ASC) was next, 29:43), 3rd was Taylor Stack (WSC), 29:47, and 4th was Kyle Moran (Mines), 29:49.  And did the Denver Post even mention this?  As far as I could tell, no ~

If any reader (or, heck, even if YOU DON’T READ this) has somewhat pertinent photos of local or involving-locals or even remotely related to local-running photos, consider sending them in.  [email protected]


Dec. 21:  six runners out for a flat, mostly-paved stroll through the bucolic river-front area had good weather – cool, surface not wet, etc.  James Roche and Kevin Donoher ran side-by-side most the way, with James slowing down and finishing 6 seconds behind Kevin’s 29:24.  Patrick Hummel was next, 33:32; Bryan Baroffio (out for an easy jog after a marathon the previous week) had 37:06 of fun; Rhonda Jones (from Delta) experienced 40:49 of our riverfront scenery; and Sheryl Douglas swept the course a bit under one hour.

December 7, WinterSun “11k”, Moab

Yes, this race was closer to an 11k … times were, well, a bit ‘more’ than expected or hoped.  I spoke with several runners who had wrist-GPS devices, and the shortest distance measured was 6.6 miles.  (So subtract at least 4 minutes from MY ‘official’ finish time …)

            Never-the-less, this interesting and scenic course started at the Moab Golf Club, and meandered mostly downhill to the Grand County High School track.  There were 183 finishers this year.  RYAN GULDAN and TRISTAN SPENCE were the over-all winners, in leading Grand Valley dominance in the men’s race, and many age-group top-3 results for the women.  Ten of the fastest 11 finishers were from Grand Junction (including Fruita).

            WOMEN:  Ms. Spence (just 15) was 15th over-all, with 43:02 of fun.  Half-a-minute back was Megan Flesch (29, from Mancos), 43:39.  Another minute later the 3rd woman (Kristina Zoller, 39, from Avon) finished in 44:53.  Fifth woman was Lindsay Stansfield (38, G.J.), 46:29. 12-year-old Rozlyn Stowe (Helper, UT) was 6th female, 49:27, followed by Master’s winner Lori Wilson (47, from Florida), 49:46.

            Lindsay S was 2nd in her age group.  Rhonda Jones was 3rd in the 40-49 (54:38).  Jeanie Grooms won the 60-69 (58:13); and Rochelle Kriegshauser won the 50-59 (58:49).  Mary Young was 2nd for the 70+ stalwarts.

            MEN:  Mr. G (age 36) sped through the course in 35:19 – and probably would have had a 32-time (or better?) for a 10k.  Next in was 15-years-young Jordan LeBlow, 35:59.  Finishing 3rd and 4th were Evan Ellison (17, Moab) and James Roche (32) in 36:53.  In 5th was another Grand Valley H.S. runner, Hunter Prather (17) in 38:10.  Master’s fastest was 12th-place Lawrence Cannon (47, SLC) with 41:57

            Brevin Currier (G.J.) won the men’s 20-29 and was 10th over-all.  “We” swept the 30-39 – Ryan, James, and Nick Mosely (47:27).  Ted LeBlow was 17th over-all, winning the 50-59, 44:08.  Chuck Mattson (53:50) and Tom Ela (63:03) were 2nd & 3rd for the 60-69; and Rosco B. (56:20) and Dennis Young were 2nd & 3rd for the “most seasoned runner” category.


January 4  Bangs Canyon Trail Run World Championships

            Start & Finish Location         "38.988641, -108.617330"                          

            Starting Time 8:30 AM          Starting Temperature           17°                             

            Men's Record Max Robinson            2:30:00           2018  

            Women's Record       Keri Nelson    2:50:00           2018  


1  2:47:32       Max Robinson, 26, M             2  2:49:55       James Roche, 32, M  

3  2:55:03       Kevin Hadfield, 34, M            4  3:05:59       Chris Marcinek, 32, M          

5  3:07:00       Astro Ball, 36, M                    6  3:09:38       Erin Walter, 29, F     

7  3:16:43       Chris Sovacool, 31, M            8  3:26:53       Erik Hemstad, 37, M 

9  3:30:17       Michelle Oberndorf, 27, F     10  3:30:18     Lexi Van Roekel, 28, F          

11  3:49:32     Lindsay Stansfield, 38, F       12  4:07:14     Chris Pack, 45, M      

13  4:11:02     Karla Nephew, 40, F              14  4:13:48     Laura Venner, 37, F  

15  4:15:05     Jimmy Turner, 42, M             16  4:15:11     Jon Pesta, 51, M        

17  4:32:10     Hannah Holm, 49, F               18  4:35:20     Liesel Hadfield, 30, F

19  4:45:30     Deborah Anderson, 37, F     20  5:04:35     Nikki Shirrock, 38, F

21  5:26:40     Lara Schneider, 51, F             22  5:26:41     Kirk Apt, 57, M          

23  6:14:32     Corey Hinman, 44, F              24  6:14:33     Randee Bergen, 54, F

Bangs Canyon Trail Run World Championships-10th Annual-2020 Edition

The weather threatened to repeat 2018 conditions with 0% snow coverage as late as 10 days prior to this year’s World Championship event. Luckily for the runners the valley was blessed with what would become the Great Siberian Inversion of 2020 with the course receiving 5” of snow along the courses high point and 2” down low along the river. Course conditions were excellent with packed powder thanks to multiple ATV tracks and with sunny and mild weather conditions ranging from 17-30 degrees. The race results reflected this with faster average times than in 2019. On the men’s side Max Robinson, James Roche and Kevin Hadfield took the race out fast and would remain together until the mid-slopes of Windmill Road where Max upped the pace. James was able to follow temporarily until Max broke the elastic and soloed to victory in a time of 2:47. The women’s race saw Erin Walter, Michelle Oberndorf and Lexi Van Roekel match efforts throughout the early sections of the course until Erin dropped the hammer (most likely on Windmill Road) and claimed her first World Championship victory in 3:09. There were no attempts made at the 60K distance.

The sunny weather made for excellent fire-side-chatting post event with plenty of food to boost depleted glycogen levels. Special thanks to Scott Vig for the new tanned-elk-scrotum ‘Big Balls Award’ as well as for sacrificing his ATV, which we managed to break marking the course….Hope to see everyone next year and as Kevin would say, “If you had a good time, bring a friend next year”.

January 18 Saturday, APPLETON FREEZER 4-mile.  11 a.m.  Appleton Elem. School (on H Road just west of 24 Road).   2020 = 37th Annual

Mild temperature and minimal wind greeted this year’s Appleton Freezer 4 Mile participants all vying for the various prizes of cash, pie and Loki gear. The men’s race saw a strong group of five runners, aged 16 to 48, charge through the first half mile before Macginley Zastrow from Fruita Monument High School accelerated away from the pack on 24 Road’s heartbreak-hill. Mac would win in a time of 21’53.30 followed by Max Robinson and Marty Wacker. CMU-bound Fruita Monument High School runners Jadyn Heil and Ashlynn Squires led in the women’s race in 28’18.99 and 28’23.32 respectively. Kristi Siman rounded out the women’s podium with a time of 29’55.15 after a two-week break from running - maybe there’s something to this rest idea?

Thanks to Bestslope Coffee for keeping the runners caffeinated, Loki for providing excellent raffle prizes and the MMS crew of volunteers (Larry, Karla, Tom and Conrad) for running the timing system, marking/sweeping the course and being awesome in general. Until next year, keep training!

  1. Macginly Zastrow (16) 21:53            2. Max Robinson (26) 22:19

3. Marty Wacker (48) 22:35                      4. Giff Walters (34) 23:19

5. Kevin Donoher (40) 23:28             6. Chris Sovacool (31) 24:42

7. Tyler McDonald (16) 25:36           8. Jake Bradshaw (25) 27:37

9. JADYN HEIL (16) 28:18                   10. ASHLYNN SQUIRES (17) 28:23

11. Scott Vig (45) 29:17                       12. KRISTI SIMAN (40) 29:55

13. TAYLOR KINCAD (18) 30:41      14. ARIANNA KINCAD (18) 30:51

15. Bob Thome (65) 30:57                 16. SUZIE STEELE (60) 31:29

17. John Ferguson (64) 31:48           18. Jameson Tade (35) 32:31

19. CHRISTINA PIERCE (26) 33:08    20. Craig Henderson (50) 33:48

21. Corey Davis (42) 34:03                22. MANDY ARELLANO (36) 35:20

23. Scott Hollmaier (65) 35:59         24. KRISTIN MARTIN (47) 37:23

25. Tim Davis (45) 37:23                    26. AMANDA STEELE (32) 38:08

27. Marshall Steele (59) 38:25         28. Ray Jensen (55) 40:54

29. Andrew West (29) 42:26             30. CLAUDETTE MOORE (60) 45:22

31. LIZ NORRIS (66) 46:01                 32. KATHAN HARTLE (60) 47:07

33. SHERYL DOUGLAS (68) 47:23  34. ALAINE WEST (29) 48:56

35. Conrad Cole (59) 1:10:19            36. R0NDA BOWEN (56) 1:14:15


This festive (everyone? receives a Santa Claus suit!) event is put on by the City of G.J. running around the Las Colonias and Botanical Gardens area.  Around 170 people participated, with ASHLEIGH GARNER (20:27) and JEFF CUNO (16:08) posting the fastest times.

WOMEN: 1. Garner, 20:27 (wins 19&under age group)               MEN: 1. Cuno, 16:08 (20-29)

                2. Mandy Moran, 21:39 (1-19)                                                 2. Shiloh Trowbridge, 17:24 (1-19)

                3. Tia Lopez, 22:42 (30-39)                                                       3. Jeremy Swaim, 18:22 (1-19)

                4. Suzi Goudzwaard, 25:05 (40-49)                                       4. Robert Liwanag, 19:33 (1-19)

                5. Barb Trowbridge, 25:19 (50-59)                                        5. Shalom Trowbridge, 20:16 (1-19)

                6. Jeanie Grooms, 26:46 (60+)                                                  6. Sean Phelps, 21:19 (50-59)

                7. Dawn Gwin, 26:52 (50-59)                                                    7. Justin Ridpath, 22:06 (30-39)

                8. Nancy Crowell, 27:09 (20-29)                                             8. Colby Lash, 23:10 (40-49)

                9. Marta Tietse, 27:24 (20-29)                                                 9. Jameson Tade, 24:06 (30-39)

                10. Regina Christian, 27:39 (30-39)                                      10. Jason Ahrens, 24:46 (30-39)

(“Trowbridge” might actually be “Throwbridge”?)


Marty Wacker, 6:31  James Roche, 6:33     Rich Conners, 7:49    Ryan Sullivan, 8:13

Chris Enke, 8:35        Chris Chubbick, 9:18             Tim Davis, 9:21          Jamison Tade, 9:28

Donnie Tietsema, 11:47        Karla Nephew, 11:59 (1st Female)               Tom Ela, 12:01

Pete Kurslund, 12:23             Penny Vercelline, 12:40                    Adam Tietz, 14:15    

Gwynn Barrow, 15:06          Babe Periz, 16:41      Melissa Doudna, 21:06 – 5 laps                   

Shea Chubbuck, 21:31          Gina Silva, 23:42        Cory Davis, 24:40      Michelle Oberndorf, 26:39

Erin Walter, 26:59 – 5 laps   Michael Charnick, 29:52 – 5 laps

Chug chug chug, another beer mile in the books. This year we only had three people that had to do the glory lap. It was a spectacular showing with Marty Wacker taking first place male with a time of 6:31, and Karla nephew in first place female with a time of 11:59.

Congratulations!  I think we all know who’s been putting in some training. Fortunately, everybody made it out unscathed. And the potluck afterwards was almost just as much fun as the event itself. We hope to see you all again next year!

Note: the following (‘finish line doesn’t change you’) was submitted by an MMS member who thought that we all would not only enjoy, but benefit from this.  AND – he obtained permission from the author for the MMS NL to re-publish this.  Thank you, Scott Hines, and KM.

The finish line doesn't change you.

Please indulge me as I talk about running for a bit.

Whatever it is, this will not solve it.

It won’t change the fundamentals. That’s not a reason not to do it, but it’s a warning up front. If you set out to do it, you’re probably the kind of person who constantly needs to prove something to yourself, and when you finish, you’ll still be that same person. You’ll still have something to prove.

That can’t be the reason to run, but it’s always been the reason I ran. 

oh god no it’s another personal essay about running

I’m afraid you’ll find that the doors have all been locked from the outside. You’re trapped in here with me. Now, as I was saying—

When I elected to run a marathon for the first time, I knew it was going to change everything. I had been unathletic my whole life, an overweight child who wouldn’t run the mile in gym class, let alone twenty-six of my own accord. I’d taken up running as a means to an end several years prior — shedding nearly 50 pounds in my first semester away from school on an internship where I probably developed a mild eating disorder that took me a few years to recover from. The marathon was going to be proof that I’d changed for real, that I was a different person than the one who bought the suit hanging in my closet that was now too big to take in.

I trained more or less in secret, because I loathe putting myself out there in a way that could invite failure. I barely told anyone until I was months deep into training, save for one close friend who’d committed to run the race with me. This was a sneak attack on who I was. I’d chosen Jacksonville, Florida in December, a scenic trip worthy of a disappointed Big Ten team’s bowl journey, for three entirely prosaic reasons: it was during a grad-school break, it was probably going to be cool weather, and the course was probably going to be flat. I wasn’t going to make this any harder than it needed to be. 

If you’ve trained right, the first twenty or so miles of a marathon feel like an amazing testament to planning and incremental improvement. No matter how well you’ve trained, though, the next six are about the loneliest place you can experience. Whether you’re on a sleepy residential side street in Jacksonville or on a mobbed Fifth Avenue entering Central Park, it’s only you and your own problems, and the predicament you’ve put yourself in begins to feel incredibly stupid. The nagging doubts practically yell over each other: I didn’t train enough.I wasn’t up to this after allI’m not going to make my goal time. I’m going to walk across the finish line. I’m going to crawl across it.

Well, I finished. The race was small enough that it ended at a high school track, and a timing chip sensor allowed an announcer to call out each runner’s name as they entered the small stadium. Despite walking a good portion of the previous six miles, I’ve never run as hard as I did when “Scott Hines, from Westerville, Ohio!” came out of that public-address system. I passed six people in the last 400 meters. I finished in a time that wasn’t quite what I’d intended, but was plenty respectable for someone who runs with all the grace and fluidity of a three-wheeled shopping cart full of pumpkins, and I got a damned medal for it. I had faced down a challenge that would’ve seemed impossible to me ten years earlier, and through hard work and dedication I achieved it. So, that changed everything, right?

It did, until it didn’t. I ran well for a while, and then I got bored or busy or made some other excuse, and I stopped. A few years later, having fallen out of shape, I had to prove that I could do it again, so I did. I trained poorly, and finished in a considerably worse amount of time. The next year, I did it again, and I did even worse than that.

Most personal essays about running seem to focus on the change; on learning something from the challenge and emerging from the other side a different person. Just this morning on the radio, I listened to a story about a woman who’d challenged herself to run thousands of miles across Australia, because “I wanted to become somebody more than I thought I could be.”

Perhaps I learned something too, but what I thought that was the first time and what I think it is fifteen years later aren’t the same. A dogged, maniacal focus on a singular goal — on the notion that everything’s going to change when I cross that finish line — left me in cycles of satisfaction and self-flagellation, stuck on a treadmill of hedonic adaptation. Sure, I finished a marathon, but I could’ve done better. Sure, but that was three years ago. But. But. But. The thing is, there’s only one actual finish line in life, and generally speaking, the people who train for marathons are desperately trying to push themselves further away from it. 

I began feeling my age in earnest in the past year. I know that’s comical to anyone older than me. I’m thirty-seven years old. With luck, I’ve got plenty of time ahead of me. Still, there’s a point for anyone when that feeling first truly sets in, and I’m feeling it. Whether it’s mid-career ennui, middle-aged weight gain, the demands of parenting two small children, or perhaps just apathy, it’s something. I’m not in anywhere near the shape I was in two years ago, when I ran a marathon (my fifth! — this one was to prove I could do one in my mid-30s after becoming a parent!). I’m sore a lot. Sometimes the first thing I say when I wake up in the morning is “ah, fuck”. 

I feel the pull of that old reflex again. Maybe I’ll sign up for a marathon. Prove to myself that I can still do it. It’s harder than it was when I was in college, with few obligations. I can rise before dawn and run before the kids wake up demanding cereal. I can squeeze in time on lunch hours, long runs in between weekend housework and family duties. It’s not easy, but it can be done. There’s nothing to prove, though, other than that I’ve actually learned something from it all. 

The woman who ran across Australia? The NPR story omitted a detail, which is that she’d already run across the United States ten years ago, something all but the tiniest fraction of people would consider an achievement far beyond the point of needing to prove anything. Focus on chasing a finish line, and only a finish line — whether it’s a line on the road, a professional achievement, or getting 1,000 subscribers on an email newsletter (cough) obscures the chase itself, which is everything.

Fighting for that finish line ignores the joy of movement, the feeling of blasting anxieties and worries out of my system like lint from a clogged dryer vent. The early morning obligations turning into welcome moments of calm, the sunrises creeping in after months of hiding away. Maybe I will run another marathon soon. Maybe I’ll recognize that I don’t have to prove to myself what I’m capable of.

— Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)